Wednesday, 4 July 2012

'The Coming of the Terrapiles' by Michael Moorcock

Here's a review I did in 2010 on the old blog...

In Newton Aycliffe in the 1980s the market would be held in the town precinct in dripping, freezing rain every Tuesday. The book and record stall was the most exciting bit because it sold bootleg Bowie tapes, horror books, Doctor Who books – and the strange novels of Michael Moorcock with their gaudy exotic covers. They were like a bright spot of multiversal colour in that town centre.
It seems only fitting that years later the worlds collide and Moorcock writes a Who novel of his own. This is like watching a master magician decanting one universe into another. Or a mad scientist with all his flasks and tubes and whatnots bubbling away with frothy alien brews – whizzing them all into a combustive soup.
I loved all of the brio and hyper-activity of this book. It’s a kind of space opera with lots of asides and quests and silliness en route. But for all the multiverse gubbins and made-up physics Moorcock has the good sense to make it all fun. So there’s PG Wodehouse in here, with his aunts with stolen hats and bumbling heroes called Bingo – but there are also touches of other very British icons – there’s a madcap flavour of old school comics, of music hall singalongs, Gilbert and Sullivan tongue-twistery daftness, Robin Hood gallantry, and Bedknob and Broomsticks sporty fun.
And in the middle of all of this comes Doctor Who and Amy, and they’re all very present and correct. Matt Smith’s eleventh Doctor fits into this cosmic Edwardian adventure better than a number of his previous incarnations might have. There’s something very Boy’s Own about the way he rackets about, all elbows and jaw and flapping hair. Moorcock has him gabble excitedly about Captain Cornelius, the Bubbly Boys, and Frank/ Freddie Force and all the other ludicrous friends and enemies he flings at the canvas. Meanwhile Amy’s calmly doing her own thing – I love this portrayal of her as a girl out of her depth – but with depths of her own – and a glint of steel in her personality, as we are told here.
I love the zestiness of all this. The very carefully and lovingly crafted sensation of it all being flung together on the hoof with huge enthusiasm. It’s cosmic, joyful, good-natured, camp, silly and psychedelic. It’s like having tea with a crazy old uncle and having him tell you a new Doctor Who story, seemingly off the top of his head. It’s like having a sugar rush from dolloping too  much jam on your scones as he gets carried away with his fervour for this tale of pirates and archery and hat theft and planet-hopping.
There’s something heroically frivolous about Moorcock writing like this in what’s proving to be a rather earnest, unironic twenty-first century.
And I adore the fact he has the Doctor explain black holes and universes of matter / anti-matter via the medium of his proudly-worn bow tie. How Doctor Who-ish is that? 

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